Will New York's Large High Schools Survive?

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Can you blame them? After last week's study showing that student achievement is higher in the city's new, small high schools -- and city officials reiterated their commitment to a policy of creating more of the smaller schools -- some of the principals and staff members of some of the city's largest high schools are feeling a bit worried these days.

“There’s unfortunately a fear that the D.O.E. has created that the only solution is these small schools,” James Vasquez, the teachers’ union representative for the Queens high schools, told Winnie Hu, who wrote about the large schools' concerns in The New York Times on Thursday.

The continuing study, financed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which has advocated for small schools, found that New York City teenagers attending small public high schools with about 100 students per grade were more likely to graduate than their counterparts at larger schools.

That would seem to put targets on the backs of the 67 remaining high schools that have 1,000 students or more. But it is highly unlikely that all of the city's large schools will be closed, the Times report says -- particularly given that the city's premiere high schools, like Stuyvesant, Bronx High School of Science and Brooklyn Technical High School, are all large.

And many of the large high schools are already undergoing some kind of overhaul; 10 of the 18 large high schools that have received D's or F's on their school progress reports have since 2009 gotten new principals, who presumably have the city's support and may be given time to turn things around.

The schools chancellor, Dennis M. Walcott, said there remained a place for large schools in the city, according to The Times.

“As a graduate of a large New York City high school, I know we have some wonderful large schools and some wonderful small schools,” said Mr. Walcott, an alumni of Francis Lewis High School in Queens (4,156 students). “The key indicator for us is whether the school performs at a rigorous academic level and offers students a nurturing learning environment.”

Speaking of closing schools, the city's Department of Education late Wednesday fulfilled a City Council mandate and released a report about what happened to the students of the city schools that had been phased out and closed their doors for the final time last June.

Council members had been concerned that the students were being, as the state Regents chancellor, Merryl Tisch, had put it, "warehoused" in the dying schools during their phaseouts.

The report is unlikely to end the debate over the impact of school closings, Anna M. Phillips reported in SchoolBook late Wednesday, as data could be found to support either side. Writing about the four city high schools that shut down last summer, SchoolBook said:

After these schools began closing — losing a grade level each year while ceasing to admit new students — they typically raised their graduation rates. Canarsie High School in Brooklyn, for instance, graduated about 40 percent of its final class of 358 students in 2011, an improvement over its 2008 graduation rate of 33 percent.

But Gotham Schools reports it a different way:

Of nearly 600 students who were enrolled in four high schools that closed their doors last year, less than half graduated and at least 22 percent left the school system without a diploma.

Gotham raises an interesting point that reporters and editors were discussing after the data were released:

More interesting, some say, are questions the data do not answer.

“What I’d really like to know is, what happened to all the other kids in the school when the closure was announced?” said Kim Sweet, executive director of Advocates for Children of New York. “These were much bigger schools.”

You can read the report for yourself on SchoolBook or Gotham Schools.

Gotham Schools' Rise & Shine post also has a more complete roundup of what's in the news for Thursday.

Thursday is promising to be a busy day for school news and events.

The City Council Education Committee has scheduled a public hearing for 10 a.m. at 250 Broadway, 16th floor, on the eviction of all houses of worship services from city school buildings as of Feb. 12. The eviction is the outcome of a long legal fight over whether holding services in a public school building violates the separation of church and state. Udi Ofer of the New York Civil Liberties Union offers his opinion in SchoolBook.

At 1 p.m. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg announces his new city budget. Stay tuned for insights into how it will affect schools.

Students at the Washington Heights Expeditionary Learning School -- known as WHEELS -- present their portfolios of work in their unusual student-led parent-teacher conferences, a practice that was described recently in a Principal's Office in SchoolBook.

Central Park East Middle School (Junior High School 13) in Manhattan kicks off its own Super Bowl challenge at 10 a.m. with a visit by former Giant Sean Landeta. Read about it later in SchoolBook. (Go Giants!)

And from 6 to 8 p.m., Educators 4 Excellence (E4E) "will host a panel discussion with New York Deputy Secretary of Education David Wakelyn and New York Secretary of State Cesar Perales focused on Governor Cuomo’s powerful call for a new evaluation system and greater teacher involvement in the process." The event is at the Millennium Broadway Hotel, 145 West 44th Street, Manhattan.

If you haven't taken a look earlier, check out the great materials and ideas that The Learning Network has put together to help teachers freshen up their lessons about black history and the civil rights movement -- just in time for Black History Month.

And the New York Federal Reserve Bank recently held a briefing on the regional economy, a spokesman writes, "where we discussed the impact of the Great Recession on NY and NJ school finances. Immediately following that, we posted two blogs, one on the impact of the Great Recession on NY school finances on Monday and the other on the impact on NJ school finances." Here are some links to that information:

Quarterly Regional Economic Press Briefing
(Scroll down to presentations, and the Education briefing starts on slide 13)

New York Blog

New Jersey Blog

He also writes: "The briefing and the blogs are based on two research studies, one on the impact of the recession on NY school finances, the other on NJ school finances:"

New York paper

New Jersey paper